Inside the troubled lyrics of Conrad Sewell’s debut album

Inside the troubled lyrics of Conrad Sewell’s debut album

Conrad Sewell
Photo: Stephen Chee
Words by Anna Rose

Though he has the looks of a blonde Mark Wahlberg and the musicality of Prince, the heavy sentiments and serious stories that course through Conrad Sewell’s music are entirely his own.

Heartbreakingly raw, Sewell’s highly anticipated debut album, LIFE, captures the chaos the Brisbane singer-songwriter experienced both personally and professionally as he battled addiction.

An excited Sewell explains the release has been a long time in the making. “I feel like it’s finally time for the world to hear what I’m all about, to hear these songs and hopefully fall in love with them.”

Given Sewell’s struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, it’s fair to say that if it weren’t for some serious changes Sewell would have completely jeopardised his musical potential. Bright as his voice is, the heavy undertones of his past are unmistakeable, as Sewell says, “I feel like I’ve had a second chance in some ways.

“I was signed to a big American label, I was out on the road playing massive venues and had a very big song out with Kygo [‘Firestone’].

“At that point I started to jeopardise a lot of stuff around me and self-sabotage. I don’t know why, I just guess I did. Maybe I was scared I was getting what I finally wanted, or maybe I’m just a fucking idiot.”

It wasn’t until those closest to Sewell told him to pull his head in that he started to realise things about himself that he didn’t like – so he made some changes. “I’m a different person to who I was back then,” he says. “Finally the universe is blessing me with being allowed to put this album out.”

Safe to say that Sewell has always been blessed, but he’s had to be active in taking these gifts and putting them out there, a fact to which he laughs, “It’s true though, I have always been very fortunate. I’ve worked hard, but doors have always opened because of the best things I got [given].

“It’s coming to me [now], hopefully, because I’m ready for it – it didn’t happen back then because I wasn’t ready for it and if I had had some massive success with my solo album, I would have ended up dead. I wasn’t ready to receive it, but now I am.”

The songs written for LIFE overlap with those dark times. “There’s songs that were written five years ago, and songs that were written five months ago,” explains Sewell. “I wrote hundreds of songs and worked with everyone from Timbaland to Bruno Mars’ team, kept trying to find this hit song or whatever would change my life overnight – but that didn’t happen.”

Keeping it simple and writing music about his life was the sound people ultimately fell in love with, and the sound Sewell’s management encouraged him to release first. “‘It’s not about working with the big names for you,’ they told me. ‘It’s about hearing your voice in its rawest form.’ That’s what this album is.”

There have been many events in Sewell’s past that have been detrimental to his wellbeing which are now immortalised in song – talking to him it’s clear Sewell is now in a far better place.

Though he heads on tour throughout May and June, LIFE hasn’t been performed live to anybody, leaving Sewell not knowing what to expect. “When I get on stage and sing this as a full body of work, see how it feels, it’s probably gonna be hard at some points during the set, I’m sure, to look back.

“When I listen to the album now, I’m like ‘fucking hell, I was in a dark place at one point’. But when I’m playing live and I’m singing, I feel like I go to a different place. I’m there to entertain the crowd, to put on a show. I go to that place rather than make myself cry.”

Conrad Sewell’s debut album, LIFE, is out on Friday May 17 through Sony. Sewell launches the record at The Forum on Friday June 7. Grab your tickets via the venue’s website.